Sadness. So much sadness. The Whitmore college campus is awash in sadness—and polluted with empty bags of blood. Mystic Falls is quiet, empty of supernatural threats, but not without Jeremy Gilbert’s continually more and more impressive pectorals and biceps the size of a small nation. Jeremy, too, is sad. Matt’s sad. Stefan gave up. Caroline refuses to give up. Elena uses psychotropic therapy to hallucinate Damon, and has become the shadowy terror terrorizing the border of Mystic Falls. Alaric hates being a vampire and cannot talk to cute doctors played by a late 90s goddess. Luke and Liv belong but don’t belong. Damon and Bonnie eat cute pancakes every day in a cozy ‘nether world.’
The Vampire Diaries also has a new show runner, Caroline Dries--long time writer and former number two to Julie Plec. “I’ll Remember,” besides an episode of television, a story that unfolds over a number of acts, also seems like a fresh sleight of sorts. Elena narrates to the audience that she needs to pick a major during her sophomore year of college because sophomore year begins the forming of one’s life plan. Elena’s narration packs a lot of exposition within the teaser and the first act. It’s as if Caroline Dries wants to re-root the show, to remind fans that Travelers and an infinite number of doppelgangers doesn’t dominate the show, but it’s not so simple as to put the characters back in Mystic Falls. Magic’s gone. The supernatural friends will die in Mystic Falls. Another Caroline, Ms. Caroline Forbes, feels determined to re-root her friends where they belong. Caroline left college to solve the magic problem. Julie Plec, in a way, left Caroline Dries to plot her way through the magic problem and to find a way to bring Damon and Bonnie back from the dead.
Caroline’s the lone character who hasn’t given up on bringing Damon and Bonnie back from the dead. Every other character gave up. Giving up looks different with different characters. Elena uses ancient psychedelics that transport her to a place where she’s with Damon. Alaric listens to her, near the end of the episode, explain that the best part of life as a vampire is the eternal love she had with Damon, except now she has an eternal hole. Luke’s herbs help her avoid the grueling grieving process. Hallucinated Damon resembles her own other—both benevolent and malevolent. When she tries to say goodbye to him, she can’t. She can’t let go. Damon reminds her that she’ll threaten Luke for the magic hallucinatory juice. Elena uses her hands to cover her ears. When that fails, she destroys her mug and throws the candles off the table.
She reaches out to Stefan during her despairing time. Stefan lives in a remote area, speaks regularly only to Alaric, and works for a weekly paycheck plus commission at a car mechanic place. Alaric thinks he’s tracking leads that’ll help solve the magic problem, but Stefan’s only living an ordinary life: work during the day, the occasional love-making, and a night alone with a six-pack, staring dead-eyed and depressed at his phone. “I gave up,” he tells her after she calls him because she needs hope. Stefan basically breaks Elena’s soul because of those three words. For Elena, Stefan represents stability, hope, light. Stefan carries others through trials and ordeals. Stefan experienced more trials and ordeals. He came back from the dead many times in very specific and particular ways: from the Ripper, from the watery coffin, from Lexi’s death, from the ebbs and flows of his courtship with Elena, from his turbulent fraternal relationship. Stefan never gave up. The loss of his brother, though—it’s among the most poignant Stefan arcs in the series. The loss of a significant other hurts differently from the loss of a sibling. I always thought the true love story of The Vampire Diaries didn’t involve Elena. It’s not all about the girls; it’s all about the brothers.
There’s an ironic touch to the episode title. “I’ll Remember” becomes “I don’t want to remember” by the final act—the penultimate scene actually when Elena asks Alaric to compel her to forget she loved Damon. The decision’s unnecessarily melodramatic and will take too many episodes to reverse, but Elena can’t turn off the switch because that would repeat season four after her vamping. “I’ll Remember” also misleads the viewer. No character chooses to remember. The Mystic Falls gang are burdened by their memories. Their past is nightmare which they cannot awake from or escape. Instead, they find substances. Tyler works out like an asshole. Jeremy drinks all day, sleeps around with random girls, and plays video games. He wanders the Mystic Falls forest and gazes sadly at a photo of those he loved who he cannot see because of the magic-less Mystic Falls. Matt tries to rouse him. Matt rouses himself by training to do some good, but good intentions lead to bad things for Matt. His boss already tries to track the trail of a vampire threat on the town borders.
There’s also a lot of lines referring to grief and moving on, and about how these characters know how to grieve and have done it before and will do it again. But this time they don’t want to, and they don’t want to feel. They want to be numb. And they look numb. They act numb. They’re separate not by an invisible barrier but by their emotional barriers. Remembering doesn’t carry anything besides sadness, depression, and a constant reminder that they’re gone. That’s the thing. Damon wonders what he is because he’s been dead for over 200 years. He thinks and then gets it: he’s gone. Poof.
So is everyone else.
-Welcome to another season of TVD reviews in The Foot. Other websites dropped TVD coverage, but my goody blog has not. I will continue to write about this melodramatic teen soap even though I near 30. Ugh.
-Liv and Luke benefitted from a summer of off-screen rehabilitation. Liv and Luke were abrasive for much of their scenes last season. Now, Liv’s doomed to be a potential romantic partner of Tyler. Tyler can’t control his anger. It’s like season 1. Luke works better cast as reluctant drug dealer, loyal and sympathetic friend.
-About the final scene? I don’t know where they are, and they don’t know where they are. I liked the LOST-style ending, though. The penultimate scene had tense emotion and a potentially heartbreaking choice by Elena. The ultimate scene had different music. Damon made smiley face pancakes. I dug it. I want an entire episode of Damon and Bonnie playing house in a cabin in the woods. Damon even wears flannel.
-Steven R. McQueen’s muscle mass continues to grow.
-Jodi Lyn O’Keefe plays a doctor, a mentor to Elena, and a potential love interest of Alaric. Ms. O’Keefe, of course, made boys swoon in the late 90s and early 2000s. She had a role in Halloween H2O. She played Matthew Lilliard’s reality star character’s girlfriend in She’s All That. She played mostly mean, popular girls. In Whatever It Takes, her character only likes a guy who’s mean to her. She’s a great comedic actress, though. The best parts of Whatever It Takes involve her, especially their date at her house. She shines throughout the late stages of act II and throughout all of Act III. I hope she’s promoted to a regular character, and that her and Matt Davis have all their scenes together. That’s some early 2000s magic.
-Caroline Dries wrote the episode. Jeffrey Hunt directed.